I was scrolling through social media when I stumbled upon a post implying that there are plenty of groups who are pushing for former Congressman Albee Benitez to run for the mayoralty post in Bacolod.
That is not new of course. As early as last year, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the handling of the province’s situation with Albee at the helm, drew comments on social media that he might be a good shoo-in for the top post in Bacolod.
I was one of those agreeable to that and never hid the fact that I was upset at how the city initially approached the pandemic. In fact, I had been gracious of my compliments for Vice Mayor El Cid for stepping up to the plate as the IATF chair and was visible in handling the COVID situation.
Albee was very visible in the province and the cohesive approach they did jump-started the call for him to run as Bacolod mayor. But because Albee did not take the bait and was mum about the issue, the call died down until recently when the tarpaulin of “Run Albee Run” came out and it was resurrected.
A couple of weeks ago, I had dinner with friends and the topic was whether Albee will really run as city mayor after those tarps came out. I said his camp must be testing the waters for a senatorial post. But my friends said, the Senate is quite a long shot because a survey sent to me which included Albee, showed he was way out of the magic 12 circle.
However, except for one friend who was from Iloilo province, all of my friends said they will gladly welcome Albee as a mayoralty candidate for Bacolod. I didn’t give it much thought until the other day when social media pages became alive with posters urging Albee to run as mayor.
That even overtook the news story of Albee’s son, Javi Benitez, who is officially running as mayor of Victorias City.
A post from party-list, Abang Lingkod saying “Bacolod, it’s time! Let’s SMILE again” was shared hundreds of times in just a matter of hours. Not surprising since it is no secret that Abang Lingkod was a brainchild of Albee. But for the post to generate so much interest means, with a little more urging and a little more clamor from Bacolod voters, Albee might just take on the challenge in the interest of leadership change.
So why is there a call for a new leader? It is undeniable that Mayor Bing has well-entrenched machinery. He is after all the longest-serving mayor of this city and even served as a congressional representative.
But it is exactly that – the part where he has served the city for more than two decades yet has nothing to show in terms of development, has ignited the call for a change in leadership. Compared to Iloilo City, we lag behind, and the city’s approach to the COVID-19 pandemic just sealed that.
A lot of anti-Bing social media pages sprouted and sometimes I browse through it. At times, I can sense some misplaced anger directed at Mayor Bing even when you can see that his hands are tied as well by directives coming from the national government.
But then again, it is exactly that too. Mayor Bing is the chair of the League of Mayors in the country and part of the LEDAC. In other words, he has influence that could have made him even more powerful in his executive decisions.
But we never saw that. Worse is the lack of trust and cooperation from the private sector that was evident in other cities. Take a look at Iloilo and Pasig where donations from the private sector pour in without being asked. And that is because the private sector trusts that the donations won’t be politicized but given directly to those who need them most.
Businessman Vladimir Gonzales has indicated that he will run against Mayor Bing if there are no contenders. But yesterday, Vladimir shared the Run Albee call and has alluded he will back the former solon.
In the past, I’ve written that the seemingly united party of Mayor Bing is seeing cracks. With some councilor graduating, the party may not be as strong as it seems. If an opposition party will emerge with Albee at the helm, I think there are some from the present officials who will join the other camp.
Vice Mayor El Cid remains loyal in his pronouncements to the mayor. However, I have a feeling that when he was sidelined as IATF chair by the creation of the EOC, a crack was formed. Plus the rumors that Councilor Cindy Rojas may be the mayor’s choice for the VM post may just push El Cid to tie the knot with others.
Congressman Greg Gasataya belongs to Bing’s camp but I know he is very close to Albee and may be inclined to support the latter. We have renegade councilors, both present and past who may opt to join forces with Albee and who have some supporters of their own like Al Victor Espino, Ceasar Distrito, Joselle Batapa, Thaddy Sayson (who also shared the Run Albee post by the way) and many more. Former Board Member Patrick Lacson has also indicated that he will run as councilor of Bacolod and will definitely be part of Albee’s slate.
At the moment, where clear loyalty is concerned, Mayor Bing is left with Councilors Cindy, Renecito Novero, Israel Salanga, and Administrator Em Ang. Among them, only Cindy can help infuse funds in the mayor’s coffer.
Albee is probably going to be Mayor Bing’s strongest contender. Some say that a probable face-off may prod the mayor to step aside and find another post. If so, it will be against Cong Greg. If that happens, then it’s clear that it is all for the sake of holding on to power, nothing more.
Hmmm, interesting developments.*